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Comics Mean Favorite Stories and Characters

The week of April 29th leading into Free Comic Book Day on May 4th, I’m asking bloggers, podcasters & artists to post something explaining what comics mean to you. (prompt courtesy of Comics Kick Ass Week)

batman442I’ve spent the last few days sharing some brief, loose thoughts on some of the things that comics mean to me, have been to my life.

But I haven’t talked about my favorite stories, my favorite characters. And truly, anything actually comprehensive on that front could be an entire blog in itself, something far larger than the scope and intent of this week’s posts. So I’ll touch on a few only.

Superman was the first–Superman is the reason I was introduced to comics. I touched a few weeks ago on the significance of the Death and Return of Superman Omnibus, aos500collecting that entire saga under one cover, as the ultimate story from my childhood is presently the ultimate single volume in my collection.

Another Superman story that holds a lot of meaning for me is Man of Steel, the John Byrne series that reintroduced Superman to the world, introduced the version of Superman that I consider “my Superman.”

Over on the Batman side, there’s A Lonely Place of Dying. Tim Drake–the third Robin (or now, Red Robin in the New 52)–had only JUST been introduced as I got into comics. So the character has been around the xmen041entire time I’ve been into comics, had comics of my own…but while I was new to comics, Tim Drake the character was new to being Robin. As he grew up, I grew up; as he gained experience, I’ve gained experience. Sadly, where Tim was once several years OLDER than me…even if they portray him as being 20 or so and not mid-teens…I’ve now got nearly a decade and a half on the character. And for that, Robin–the Tim Drake version–is also one of my favorite characters.

With Batman, significant stories that I think of quickly include A rune000Death in the Family, as well as Knightfall, KnightQuest, and KnightsEnd. No Man’s Land was also quite important as it got me back into the Bat-verse for awhile, sampling the various titles since they tied in, and I tried to follow the entire thing (though trailed off when I went off to college).

On the Marvel side, while I kinda loosely followed some of the X-Stuff (particularly Fatal Attractions, the X-Men 30th Anniversary crossover/event) I didn’t actually start trying to follow ALL of the X-books until Legion Quest and the Age of Apocalypse. I got all the issues in batman497December 1994 that ended with the cliffhangers as those titles seemed to rather abruptly END…and then followed all the Age of Apocalypse titles for the 4-month event…and then for a few months afterward, I tried to keep up with the entirety of the X-books, learning about the characters I didn’t already know, learning about their “real versions” as opposed to their AoA counterparts, etc.

And of course, there are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was introduced to them by other boys in my Cub Scouts group having the interest, but their interest soon became my own. The comics, the cartoons, the movies, etc.–the tmnt050TMNT have actually been part of my life longer than comics, I believe. 

The Avengers and the non-X-related Marvel characters became a much larger part of my life in the late-1990s, having grabbed my attention with Heroes Reborn, but it was the Heroes Return where–for a brief time–I was buying everything Marvel that I could, while offhand sticking solely with Superman books from DC. I followed Avengers through Busiek‘s entire run, and a couple years each of Fantastic Four and Iron Man, and stuck with Thor a couple years longer than Avengers.

mantra001And significant as Marvel and DC were, I jumped onboard the Ultraverse with its launch in June 1993, and had the intention of following it in its entirety, though that quickly fell by the wayside due to the price ($1.95 to the $1.50 of the Superman books!) and sheer volume of titles. Ultimately, I followed Prime from the beginning to the very end, as well as Mantra, and I jumped on the Rune #0 promotion and so followed the Rune stuff in that entirety as best I could (I’m STILL missing one of the crossover issues with Conan!). Over the past couple years I’ve worked on tracking down the Ultraverse issues and titles I’d missed, and I’m down to a (relatively) small list of xo000missing issues from having a complete story collection of the Ultraverse…or at least, complete enough for me.

There have been book series and authors that I’ve followed–Brad Meltzer, Aliens, Dragonlance, Magic: The Gathering, Left Behind, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians–but ultimately…quantity-wise, it’s comics that have had the most impact on me, the greater variety and writers of stories that I carry with me.


Other posts in my participation in Comics Kick Ass week:
Comics Mean Memories | Comics Mean Connection | Comics Mean Education/Entertainment/Escape | Comics Mean Marking the Passing Time

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Comics Mean Marking the Passing Time

The week of April 29th leading into Free Comic Book Day on May 4th, I’m asking bloggers, podcasters & artists to post something explaining what comics mean to you. (prompt courtesy of Comics Kick Ass Week)

aos453Comics in general–the whole of “comics,” collecting, reading, noticing–have provided an interesting way to mark the passage of time in my life. I’ve grown up with certain characters–literally and figuratively (most notably the third Robin, Tim Drake) and seen nearly a third of Superman’s existence, and more than half of most Marvel characters’ existence…and the entirety of many more.

But amidst that, going back to memories, connections, and education–a number of comics have coincided with events in my life, or major comic stories have been able to lend themselves to locking in memories that’d otherwise be forgotten.

tmnta025As I have memories of getting my first comics Spring 1989, basically 24 years ago…let’s use 24 years and not quibble over months and other highly-exactness that can make this more complicated than I’m already going to make it:

I’ve been into Superman for 24 years, or 32% of his existence. Batman, I’ve been into basically as long, so let’s say 32% there as well. Since my first four comics, I’ve been around for about 281 issues, give or take late issues, skip months, zero issues, etc. Superman #31-226, Adventures of Superman 453-649, Superman #650-714, and about 20 issues of the New 52 Superman. Action Comics would be 643-904 and 1-20 of the New 52. Batman I’ve seen from #439-700-something, and about 20 of the New 52. Detective Comics I’ve seen from #604-881, and about 20 issues of the New 52.

hunterprey001Amidst these: I was 11 when I got back into comics in spring/summer 1992 and turned 12 a couple weeks after The Death of Superman. The Death and Return of Superman saga, the rematch with Doomsday in Hunter/Prey; Zero Hour and the first year beyond that–made up my junior high years. The Electric Costume Superman came about toward the end of my sophomore year of high school. The soft relaunch of the Super-titles in fall 1999 coincided with my starting college.

The X-Men event Age of Apocalypse closed out my junior high years, and all the Onslaught, Heroes Reborn, and Heroes Return stuff came during xmenalpha001my high school years.

Batman: Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knights End were part of junior high for me, and all the stuff that came out of those were in my high school years. Wolverine lost his adamantium during my junior high years, and didn’t get it back until I’d started college.

X-Men #100, The Shattering, The Twelve–these were part of early college for me.

tec6759/11 and the “new look” of “Nu Marvel”–the more grim and gritty, hide-the-heroes, leather jackets and grittier logos were the thing through most of my college years, and it wasn’t until I was into grad school that things started to pull back together to a callback to my childhood/junior high days.

The Avengers were Disassembled at the start of grad school, and Johns has been THE Green Lantern writer of note since I started grad school. Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, 52, and Flashpoint have all been since I started grad school.thor085

Since moving into this apartment, I’ve seen Batman: RIP, Battle for the Cowl, and the return of Bruce Wayne.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures carried from junior high and into high school. The original TMNT run had ended and the second volume was ending about the time I was headed into high school. The Image run came along sometime in there, though I didn’t discover it until college…and the “volume 4” series kicked off partway through my junior year of college, running til shortly after my wolverine145grad school days.

The height of the Ultraverse was junior high for me, while Black September marked the start of high school for me.

While many look down on the ’90s era of comics…that’s when I grew up. Most of my favorite comics are from the 1990s.

Comics also cover a huge part of the timeline of my life: December 1980-Fall 1988 was the time before comics.

prime001Fall 1988-Spring 1989 I was reading Grandpa’s comics. Spring 1989-Fall 1990 or so was my first foray into comics. Summer 1992-December 1995 was my second. And while the number of comics I’ve been getting any given month has fluctuated WILDLY, I’ve been fairly steady in comics since March 1997. I came close to trailing off in college, and have been down to just a handful of titles on several occasions.

All of this to say: just as you can measure stuff by things going on in comics, and specific issues…I’ve been around and into comics for so long, they’ve been such a big part of my life (intentionally or in retrospect) that much of the time I’ve lived can be marked by the comics that were coming out simultaneously.


Other posts in my participation in Comics Kick Ass week:
Comics Mean Memories | Comics Mean Connection | Comics Mean Education/Entertainment/Escape

Comics Mean Education, Entertainment, and Escape

The week of April 29th leading into Free Comic Book Day on May 4th, I’m asking bloggers, podcasters & artists to post something explaining what comics mean to you. (prompt courtesy of Comics Kick Ass Week)

Comics are a great source of education, entertainment, and escape for me. I’ve learned a lot from comics–stuff that’s stuck with me, even helped shape some of the ways I see the world around me. They’re certainly a source of entertainment, or I wouldn’t still have the interest I do in them (which in turn branches into everything else). And along the lines of entertainment, they also provide a means of (temporary) “escape.”

One of the most common, practical things I learned from comics comes from the price of the comics that had most of my interest at the time: $1.25. The majority of the comics I recall particularly from late 1992 seemed to be $1.25 for regular issues or $2.50 for (Eclipso) annuals, with some other price points thrown in. As such, I find it quite easy to recall that 1.25 goes into 10.00 8 times. That may not be terribly useful, but I’ve been amused at the times it’s come into play in my life.

I learned the differentiation between “justice” and “the law” from an old Batman comic, which informs my views to this day, that there IS a difference at times, between seeing the law upheld vs. seeing justice done, or vice versa.

I’ve learned about history and the world around me thanks to “exposure” through comics. I’m often fascinated when I discover that something referenced in a comic is true/corroborated elsewhere, or prompts me to research stuff on my own. I learned a lot that way from The Sandman series in particular.

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Comics Mean Connection

The week of April 29th leading into Free Comic Book Day on May 4th, I’m asking bloggers, podcasters & artists to post something explaining what comics mean to you. (prompt courtesy of Comics Kick Ass Week)

comicskaylaYesterday I shared a bunch of stream-of-conscious memories–memories tied to comics. Tonight I’m going to talk about how comics mean connection for me.

Simply being “into comics” forms a basic connection with more people than I can possibly imagine at any given time or place. It’s an ice-breaker (or follow-up to one, anyway), a common point of interest with far more people than even necessarily the average comic reader.

I can go to a number of different conventions and interact with hundreds (if not thousands) lifeofwalt092of other like-minded individuals of all ages/gender/etc. based simply on the shared enjoyment of comics. And while entirely a topic unto itself, many conventions can hold interest simply by relation to comics, or that other convention topics also hold interest to comic fans.

For better or worse, with a number of my friends where there’s that shared interest, even if we don’t have much else to talk about at a given time, comics–past, present, future, etc.–mean there’s almost always something to talk about.

Comic shops–where I get most of my comics, virtually every Wednesday or so–mean comics connect me to Places; to a “constant.” The local comic shop is a familiar space and a regular space in my life. While a number of other things in life have changed, the comic shop has remained more constant even than where I’ve lived since 1999.

lifeofwaltspecial2010Comics connect me to fictional characters and worlds–to places of the imagination, and beyond my own imagination. Growing up, many comic heroes are not horrible role models or examples to aspire to.

Comics connect me to certain times in my life, and many of my longboxes are like time-capsules…flipping through a box I can remember the semester of college I was in when I got those issues, or the job I was working, or the convention I attended.

Comics given to me as gifts provide the connection to another person the same as any other tangible gift one might give or receive.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things–and far more detail–that I could get into on this, but I’ll stick with scratching the surface for now.

Comics Mean Memories

The week of April 29th leading into Free Comic Book Day on May 4th, I’m asking bloggers, podcasters & artists to post something explaining what comics mean to you. (Comics Kick Ass Week)

Comics mean memories. A connection to the past, and to others. Comics have provided an example, provided escapes, provided inspiration. Comics present heroes and thoughts and ideas. Comics are education, and analogy, and rite of passage. Among so many other things.

For today, let me touch on comics as memories. While I no longer recall the exact timeframe, I do remember Grandpa bringing a stack of comics when he and Grandma visited once. These were DC issues–silver agey stuff. I don’t recall the Batman comic whose cover sticks in my mind right now, and haven’t a clue the Superman comics from this stack…but it was Superman. And Batman and Robin, and The Joker. (And I remember being surprised to learn Robin’s just a kid!)

first2supermancomics

I remember being at the mall the following spring, and my sister came up to me in Waldenbooks with several comics, pointing out that they still make them. Superman and Batman, anyway. Mom bought at least a couple for me. While I couldn’t swear with any certainty if she bought all four in one go or if they were a couple different times, I do know my first four comics were Superman #31, Adventures of Superman #453, Batman #439, and Detective Comics #604. I have on my desk beside me what I believe to be THE actual copy of that Adventures of Superman issue from Waldenbooks, from spring 1989.

I remember talks with Grandpa, the shared interest in these brightly-colored comic characters. I remember his excitement at tracking down the entirety of the Avengers‘ crossover Operation: Galactic Storm.

I remember he was so tickled when he came across the 1999 or so Batman Beyond #1 while at a Kmart. He wasn’t bothered by the new character–he was excited to read it, and went on and on about this “new” Batman, that the original had finally retired and a new guy was going to be Batman.

Jumping back a couple years, I remember sharing the Heroes Return early issues with him–especially Thor #s 1-2 and how he enjoyed those.

I remember the day Superman died–of Dad going to the comic shop to pick up the whole story (we’d reserved and elected to wait for the end of the story), and of our sitting in the living room that night, reading the entire story; and the couple months after as we (weekly) shared the experience of reading the Funeral for a Friend issues.

For that matter, I remember all those weeks that Dad would get home from work, ready to just settle in and relax for the night, but he’d turn around and go back out with me so I could get a couple new comics for the week.

I remember the shared interest in comics with my friend Zack, especially the summer of 1992 and throughout ’93 and ’94; the death and return of Superman, Batman’s Knightfall, the beginnings of the Spider-Man clone saga, the Infinity War, Eclipso: The Darkness Within.

I remember the shared interest in comics with my friend Jim; of his introducing me to the X-Men…through the Pryde of the X-Men vhs tape, a couple issues of Uncanny X-Men from the 1991 “relaunch,” of him “quizzing” me on characters I now know as Storm, Wolverine, Bishop, and others. He introduced me to Thanos, through The Infinity Gauntlet, and it was the realization that Adam Warlock was to appear in Rune and my recognizing the character from Jim often talking about him–that caused Rune to be one of the series I followed most closely in late 1995.

I remember sharing and talking comics at lunches with my friend Craig, and of incorporating comics into papers I’d write for school.

I remember countless bike rides in good weather (and bad) to the comic shops–biking as far as 30 minutes just to get to the comic shop.

I remember making friends with a “neighbor” in the dorm freshman year at college–talking X-Men, X-Man; the Shattering and The Twelve.

I remember reading all those Hellblazer issues the summer I worked at a camp in Michigan, bonding with a couple other workers over the Vertigo stuff. And that winter, my parents giving me several Sandman volumes for my birthday; of reading/discussing those with my friend Drew. (And my parents gave me the rest of the volumes for Christmas!)

I remember getting into early Ultimate Spider-Man with my friend Mike, and the shared reading experiences there.

And I remember all those Fridays with Mike, Drew, and Greg–going to the gaming store, the comic shop, Skyline Chili, and in general hanging out so many Fridays that year.

I remember seeing my letter published in an issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 4, and how cool that was to me–also tied to the memory of finding the new TMNT toys with Drew, and his not only not discouraging me, but ENcouraging me to just buy all 4 turtles rather than regret it and have trouble finding them later.

I remember going with Drew to the Wizard World: Chicago con in 2007; meeting Paul Jenkins and Jim Starlin, attending a bunch of the DC and Marvel panels; the comics stuff we found and bought and shared.

I remember Lonnie introducing me to GI Joe, and buying an “extra copy” of Master & Apprentice #1, and giving that to me–which led to me tracking down back issues and following the Devil’s Due GI Joe series for years. (And beginning a tradition of comics-related ‘exchanges’ wherein we acquire stuff for the other and periodically actually get stuff to the other).

I remember several comic con excursions with my friends Earl and Michael–a couple small local cons, a new con this past November, and a trip to the Wizard World Columbus con a couple years back.

I remember talking comics often with my friend Hillary, and of at least a couple years our hitting several comic shops for Free Comic Book Day.

I remember a couple Free Comic Book Day trips with my friend Bridgett along with Earl and Michael; and a definite once-in-a-lifetime experience, meeting Stan Lee at the Pittsburgh Comic Con last year, and her agreeing to be in a photo with me with Mr. Lee.

I’m sure all this truly just scratches the surface. But all these positive memories because of comics…and this is hardly with even looking at the stories themselves…but the social bonds, the friends I’ve made, the friendships developed at least in part due to comics.

walt-bridgett-stan-lee-2012

I came across this Comics Kick Ass thing the other day, and decided it’s well worth sharing, and provides an excellent prompt for at least a couple posts this week. Find out more at the Tumblr page or Facebook event.

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